Original North Sea Outfitters: Jonny Burke

We caught up with traditional boat builder, Jonny Burke, to discover how he learnt his craft and what inspiration he takes from the coast...

October 23rd 2017
To celebrate our AW17 Original North Sea Outfitters Collection, we’re introducing you to three personalities whose lifestyles are inspired by the coast…
Jonny Burke is a traditional boat builder based in Glasgow, we visited him at his workshop to delve into the interesting world of traditional boat building and find out how the coast has shaped the industry over the years.
How did you come to be a boat restorer?
I became obsessed with building boats from quite a young age, me and my dad always had a boat we were building or an old boat that we were restoring in the garage at home. In 2006 I went to University in Glasgow to study naval architecture and by the time I had finished studying, I was pretty certain I wanted to work on wooden boats. When I graduated I worked as a bike mechanic for a couple of years before I found the charity that I rent my work space from now, and it took off from there.
Jonny wears the Barbour Craster Crew Neck Junmper.
Tell us about the process of designing and building wooden boats.
It’s quite a long process from design conception to the final product being on the water. To start with, a customer will come to me with a finished design or an idea of a boat that they would like to have built. Once the customer is happy with the design the next stage is the building itself.
There are several stages to that; with a traditional boat you start with lofting process, this is where you draw the boat out full size, you start to familiarise yourself with parts of it. Following this you need to get hold of all the materials, they have to be right if the boat is going to last, so material sourcing is pretty key.  The wrong materials in the wrong part of the boat can really hamper the longevity, so I spend a lot of time looking for the right ones. Once I’ve got these I start building.
What makes your boats different?
I come from a racing background, so I put a lot of effort into making these traditional boats perform well, whereas a lot of people would put the aesthetics before the practical performance of the boat. In terms of my building work, I spend a lot of time on each boat I create, from sourcing the best materials that I can get hold of, to the time I take agonising over the perfect build. Touch wood, I hope that my boats will still be around in 100 years’ time.
What does Barbour mean to you?
I grew up around Sunderland, and Barbour are well known in the North East for producing practical clothing for outdoor use and in particular the fishing industry. It’s well renowned practical stuff!
Jonny wore the Barbour Cove T-Shirt.
What does the coast mean to you?
The coast is a big part of what I do, because I design and build small boats for use around the coast rather than on the open ocean. Particularly in Scotland, I have always been inspired by different coastal communities and how they have developed the boats that they use.
Each community has its own shape of boat that is indigenous to it, a shape that has been developed over many hundreds of years. For example a community may not have a sheltered set of moorings, so the boats have to sit in rough water all the time or they might have to be pulling them up the beach in a certain way, so they have developed a certain type of planking on the bottom or different sorts of protection on the bottom of the boats.
I find it fascinating how different construction methods for different parts of the coast for a myriad of different reasons have developed. I find this especially fascinating because none of those boats were drawn, they were put together off the top of someone’s head. They made mistakes, learned from them and then went back and did it again. They learnt over long periods of time, what worked and what didn’t work. I think that that’s quite an important thing to think about, traditional boats and the coast, and how they interact and help each other. 
Discover more about the campaign here, and shop the AW17 Men’s collection.